Case Studies

Land O’ Frost

The following is based on an interview with Land O’Frost CEO David Van Eekeren and SVP Steve Sakats. Land O’Frost is a privately held Chicago based firm founded in 1952 and the third largest maker of branded lunchmeats in the US. They are the fastest growing brand in their fiercely competitive category serving retailers like Wal*Mart and Kroger and led by third generation CEO David Van Eekeren and an engaged senior leadership team that includes Steve Sakats – SVP Human Resources.

TOM: Why did Land O’Frost first get involved with Agility Consulting?

DAVID: It was actually back in October of 2008 – which if you remember was a pretty turbulent time. Our company had been performing fairly well and we knew we wanted to accelerate the growth of our company but the future looked pretty uncertain. We felt it was a good time to step back and take a fresh look at our company vision and strategies and we felt the framework of the Agile Model and becoming more focused, fast & flexible to face these uncertain times made a lot of sense to us.

TOM: What has been the biggest benefit or impact from your decision to pursue greater organizaDonal agility?

DAVID: The Agility Consulting team helped us create our strategy map working closely with our executive team. This has become a valuable roadmap for success which we have now embedded across our company and in all locations helping create an overall shared sense of clarity for our vision, values and priorities. This process helped us identify the organizational obstacles and enablers to our growth along with conducting interactive workshops across our business that helped to help build the leadership and team skills needed to be an agile competitor and win in the major leagues in which we compete.

TOM: What have been some of the biggest challenges you have faced in trying to create a more engaged, agile organization?

STEVE: No question that change is hard especially for some leaders who had been programmed over many years believe success is wrapped up in their ability to command and control. Thankfully David, our CEO, is not one of those leaders and he has enabled a much broader segment of our team members to become more active in shaping the business.

TOM: What steps have you taken to help your organization become more proactive in “anticipating change”?

DAVID: We initially rolled out our strategy map in 2009 with a three day session that involved the 75 leaders in our company. It was a highly interactive process that got them involved in learning and doing SWOT assessments and other strategic exercises designed to help evaluate our business and define what we call our “mission critical” priorities and objectives. Ever since then, we have conducted an annual “Climb the Mountain” leadership summit to help keep our key leaders informed and engaged in shaping our future success.

TOM: What can senior leaders like yourselves do to help “generate confidence” within your organizations?

STEVE: Maybe the first key to generating confidence for us relates to importance we place on communications. We have invested in a companywide internal TV system that allows us to rapidly and regularly keep our folks informed via flat screen TV monitors in all break-rooms that stream on-going company information and messaging. We also have a quarterly meeting with all salaried team member that we call PIPS … Partners in Profit Sharing … because it relates to our profit sharing plan for all salaried team members and we are able to update everyone on company performance and educate what more we all can do to help both company and personal success.

DAVID: I think it is also important to help all of our company team understand how we can all be successful. This comes down to helping share the stories behind how our company got started and the WHY, HOW and WHAT involved for all of us here at Land O’Frost. Each of us needs to realize how we can contribute to our shared success and how we actually help consumers by providing high quality products at a great value. This helps bring extra meaning and more confidence to our team. 

Rollins College

The following is based on an interview with Dr. Robert K. Prescott, Associate Professor of Management at Rollins College, ( in Winter Park, Florida. Professor Prescott has designed and is conducting a graduate course in the Fall of 2012 for Human Resource Professionals entitled, Human Resources Agility. He will be joined in the delivery of the course by Ms. Nancy Tallent, VP, HR Reyes Beverage Group at Reyes Holdings.

NICK: Tell us about why you developed a graduate course in HR Agility?

DR. PRESCOTT: Speed, fitness, flexibility, nimbleness, resilience … words more often used to describe a world class athlete rather than a business organization. Yet, modern organizations are required to be agile in order to survive and thrive. The challenge is that these words seldom characterize our HR departments or staff. In fact, many of the policies and processes that are developed and/or “owned” by the Human Resources Department are often more bureaucratic than agile. In fact, some of the processes in HR, such as, performance management, talent management, team development, etc. do more to ensure that an organization is fragile than helping develop agile leaders and an agile organization. Therefore, we have designed this course to take a close look at HR programs, policies, procedures and processes through the lens of The Agile Model introduced by Agility Consulting.

NICK: How will you apply The Agile Model in your course?
DR. PRESCOTT: The Agile Model is the cornerstone for the course. There are five key organizational characteristics that distinguish an agile HR function. processes to:

  • Anticipate Change

  • Generate Confidence

  • Initiate Action

  • Liberate Thinking

  • Evaluate Results

Taken to the next level of true business partnership, the creation of an agile HR function ensures operational alignment between the various processes of HR and with the multiple functions of business operations, thus enhancing the potential for a realistic and results-oriented business partnership.

Focusing the efforts of HR on the specific needs of the business is essential. Taking specific actions in the areas of talent management, performance management, outplacement/downsizing, leadership development, team development, and employee engagement in agile ways can lead to sustained results in turbulent times. The course will include dialogue around how taking targeted actions in these areas can drive potentially greater results and support overall business strategy.

NICK: What will HR Professionals learn from participating in this course?

DR. PRESCOTT: Our course objectives include the following:

  • Define and understand a comprehensive body of knowledge of agility;

  • Understand the trends, challenges and necessary requirements for creating agile organizations;

  • Develop a comprehensive knowledge as to the role of HR in fostering the agile process;

  • Gain a precise understanding of the specific dimensions of agility;

  • Focus on the HR practices/processes that drive agility for organizations;

  • Utilize current literature from research to target thinking and recommendations for action in driving agile HR functioning;

  • Demonstrate learning by conducting and preparing video interviews of external based HR executives on the various dimensions of agility;

  • Demonstrate learning by delivering various class-based activities (reading presentations, article analysis, discussion boards, and class discussions, etc.) where key learning points are articulated.

    However, beyond these worthy academic objectives our hope is that students are able to assure their learning by applying concepts learned in class to “real-life” work situations. 

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Focused, Fast & Flexible

Focused, Fast & Flexible

Nick & Tom's new book, "Focused, Fast & Flexible: Creating Agility Advantage in a VUCA World", is now available for purchase on amazon.